World Bulletin/News Desk
Hundreds of Florida prisoners have been forced to choose between starving or violating their religious beliefs since the state stopped offering kosher meals in its prisons, the U.S. Justice Department said in a lawsuit.
The federal government filed suit against the Florida Department of Corrections in U.S. District Court in Miami on Tuesday, accusing the state of violating prisoners' religious rights by ending its kosher meal service in 2007.
"Because there is pending litigation, we are not able to make any comments," a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Corrections said on Friday.
Florida holds more than 100,000 prisoners at 146 prisons, work camps and work-release centers and has an annual corrections budget of $2.4 billion.
Until 2007, prisoners who wanted kosher meals were assigned to one of 13 facilities, where about 250 at a time opted for meals prepared under Jewish dietary guidelines.
Those rules, which exclude pork and avoid mixing meat and dairy, also satisfy or exceed the food preparation requirements for other faiths, and the participants included Muslims and Seventh-day Adventists, according to a study group commissioned in 2007 to advise the Florida Department of Corrections.
That Religious Dietary Study Group, which included a rabbi, an imam and legal experts, said the additional expense of providing kosher meals to 250 prisoners was about $146,000 a year. It warned that ending the kosher meal program could violate the law by denying inmates the right to exercise their religious obligations.
"He may either eat the non-kosher food and fail to obey his religious laws or not eat the non-kosher food and starve," the study group said.
Florida ignored the advice and ended the system-wide kosher meal program in 2007. Since 2010, it has provided kosher meals only to about a dozen prisoners at one facility near Miami, but that program is only open to prisoners who are at least 59 and eligible for assignment to a work squad.
The Justice Department lawsuit said consuming a kosher diet is a fundamental tenet of Judaism and other religions practiced by Florida prisoners.
"By refusing to offer kosher meals, the Florida Department of Corrections forces hundreds of its prisoners to violate their core religious beliefs on a daily basis," it said.
The Justice Department said the federal prisons and those in most other states do offer kosher meals to all prisoners with a religious basis for keeping kosher.
Florida prisoners can choose between meat and meatless entrees and can request vegan meals. Florida prisons also offer diets tailored to special medical needs, such as a prenatal diet, a liquid diet or a diet for those with kidney impairment, but none of the options is kosher.
Meanwhile, five Christian anti-balaka militiamen were killed Saturday in an attack on Kilometer 5, a predominantly Muslim district of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, eyewitnesses said.
An Egyptian court has ordered the release of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed al-Beltag.
As recently as 2012, Hungary was found guilty of violating Article 5(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights by the European Court of Human Rights in regards to the detention of asylum seekers.
More than 300 Palestinian women participated in the protest, which was organized by a Qalandia women's association on the occasion of the International Women's Day.
Far-right Orthodox groups in Bulgaria have been calling on volunteers to fight in Ukraine for Russian forces.
European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said he did not believe Russia switching off Europe's gas supply would be in their interests.
Armed men are marking the homes of Crimean Tatars as the peninsula heads towards a referendum to join Russia, a move the Crimean Tatars oppose.
121 children are believed to have died in the drought-hit Thar desert şn the last three months.
Hosni Mubarak, his interior minister Habib al-Adly and six other Interior Ministry officials are accused of inciting the killing of hundreds of protesters during the January 25 revolution, which ended Mubarak's autocracy.
The Polish foreign ministry advised all Polish nationals to leave Crimea.
Last week, the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) announced the suspension of talks between Khartoum and the SPLM-N.
China will sell the Yuan-class diesel-electric submarines to its close regional ally in line with a contract that is already “in an advanced stage”.
Rebels who declared independence from the Tripoli government have started exporting oil.
In recent weeks, Egypt has repeatedly closed the Rafah crossing, which – due to an ongoing, eight-year Israeli siege – represents Gaza's only window to the outside world.
The Al-Nour clinic was raided and shut down by Mauritanian authorities on Friday and one of its workers was arrested.
Turkey close to finishing the long-awaited project that will supply water to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.